In early November, UC President Janet Napolitano announced a 5 percent per year tuition increase plan to be voted on Wednesday’s UC Regents meeting. As the Chair of the Graduate Student Association, I am writing to express our opposition to the tuition increases and highlight how tuition increases will affect UC Davis’s graduate and professional students.
Graduate and professional students are a lynchpin of education and research at UC Davis, and our output is one of the foundations of excellence at our campus. We are teaching assistants, associate instructors, graduate student researchers and contributors of our education. We substantially advance the humanities, arts, sciences and engineering during our educational tenure at UC Davis and often translate those advancements into social and economic gain for the state of California.
Graduate and professional students are financially supported with both tuition remissions and stipends through a wide variety of funding sources: university employment as teaching assistants, associate instructors, graduate student researchers, research grants, endowments and private sources which include student loans. These sources will be hard-pressed to maintain the current number of supported students if they must also absorb tuition increases. While graduate students see more support from the previously mentioned funding sources, the majority of professional students fund their own education and already go tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Further increasing professional student fees is not fair and equitable to our future doctors, veterinarians, nurses, teachers, lawyers and professionals. It is not within our best interests as an institution to price graduate and professional education out of the reach of qualified applicants, especially when demand for these graduates outstrips supply in our society.
Increasing tuition will affect recruitment and retention of our outstanding graduate and professional students by reducing the amount of competitive offers our departments and programs make to new students or through not having enough funding to support our current students. It will also impact quality of teaching and research at our institution. By reducing the number of students we can support, we reduce the number of teaching assistants, associate instructors and graduate student researchers who are integral to advancing excellence at UC Davis. The outcomes when current funding sources reduce support are graduate and professional students who are pushed into more private funding sources — or pushed out of a graduate degree when it becomes too costly. When we exclude students based on ability to pay for an education, we diminish UC Davis’s ability to achieve excellence.
By increasing tuition, the University of California creates an access barrier to higher education. We cannot build a diverse and inclusive institution by excluding certain groups based on their ability to pay or their perception that a UC education is out of their reach. We need diverse viewpoints to drive education within the classroom and advancement of the arts, humanities, science and engineering.
I enjoin all stakeholders in this issue to find an alternative that does not inequitably place the burden on students — who, without this education, will not be able to be part of the equation that drives social and economic change within our state.
Chair, UC Davis Graduate Student Association
Biological Systems Engineering